I have at last begun a project, often postponed, to take up the tale of the old Arthurian legends and make my own ballad version of ‘the matter of Britain’ which is what the old poets called the cycle of legends concerning King arthur and the knights of the round table, and supremely, the legend of the holy grail. My poem will be called ‘Merlin’s Isle’ and I have begun ‘ In Medias Res’, in the midst of things with the story of Galahad and the Holy Grail. I have also written a little preface or invocation for the longer poem called ‘Take Up the Tale, and, by way of appetiser, here it is. As always you can hear me read it by clicking on the title or the play button
Take Up The Tale
As I walked out one morning
All in the soft fine rain
It seemed as though a silver veil
Was shining over hill and vale
As though some lovely long-lost spell
Had made all new again
And through that shimmer in the air
I seemed to hear a sound
As though a distant horn were blown
in some lost land that I had known
That seemed to speak from tree and stone
And echo all around.
And with the music came these words:
‘Poet, take up the tale!
Take up the tale this land still keeps
In earth and water magic sleeps
The dryad sighs, the naiad weeps
But you can lift the veil.
From where the waves wash Cornwall’s caves
Out to the white horse vale
The lands still hold the tale of old
Like hidden treasure, buried gold
Once more the story must be told
Poet take up the tale.
Tell of the king who will return
Tell of the holy grail
Tell of old knights and chivalry
Tell of the pristine mystery
Of Merlin’s Isle of gramaryre
Poet take up the tale.
Take up the tale of courtesy
Take up the tale of grace
Revive the lands’ long memory
Summon the fair folk, let them be,
something of faery, wild and free
Still lingers in this place
Lift up your eyes to see the light
On Glastonbury Tor
Then come down from that far green hill
To where the sacred waters spill
And shine within the chalice well
And listen to their lore.
Yea, listen well before you start,
Be still ere you begin
See through the surface round about
The noise, the rush, the fear, the doubt
Though Modern Britain lies without
Fair Logres lives within
You may yet walk through Merlin’s isle
By oak and ash and thorn
The ancient hills do not forget
And you might wake their wisdom yet
Who knows what wonders might be met
On this midsummer morn.’
So I have taken up the tale
To tell it full and free
The tale that makes my heart rejoice
I tell it, for I have no choice
I tell it till another voice
Takes up the tale from me.
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